A growing trend of self-love has been on the rise in this day and age of social media. Self-love, according to most people, is essential for loving others. It advocates accepting one's flaws, nurturing growth, and cultivating love and respect for oneself.
What happens, though, when this self-love is exaggerated? Would having an idealized, grandiose image of oneself still be normal? How do you know when self-love has morphed into a magnified, self-obsessed version of yourself? Is it still even genuine self-love?
And this is true for most of us. We love certain aspects of ourselves – it could be a distinct facial feature, our manner of speaking, the way we carry ourselves in front of people, how we think; there's so much to admire about ourselves, and doing so is a human thing to do. It's human nature to be selfish and arrogant at times, but true narcissists go overboard.
To get a better understanding of narcissistic personality disorder, let's go over its signs and symptoms.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. The word narcissism stems from a Greek tale about Narcissus, a handsome young man who falls in love with his own mirror.
Its signs and symptoms include the following:
- Exaggerates achievements and expects to be seen as superior
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love
- Believes that they're separate, special, or above other people
- Assumes that they're entitled to favorable treatment or that their expectations will always be met.
- Exploit others to achieve their ends.
- Difficulty empathizing with other people's needs, desires, or emotions
- Is jealous of others or believes that they envy them.
- Shows conceited, haughty behaviors and attitudes
Like other personality disorders, narcissistic personality disorder requires a thorough understanding of a person's life and knowledge of their childhood development before evaluating and diagnosing NPD. While you may find yourself agreeing with the statements above, it's essential to seek consultation with a mental health professional first.
Approximately 1–15% of the U.S. population has NPD. Narcissistic personality disorder in women is not as common as in men, as up to 75% of men are diagnosed with it, leaving up to 25% of women with NPD. Research has shown that men are more inclined to exploit others and believe they deserve certain privileges.
Narcissism vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
It's easy to mistake narcissistic tendencies for symptoms of actual narcissistic personality disorder, but not everyone who manifests narcissistic traits has it. NPD and being narcissistic are both about being self-obsessed, but there are important differences between the two.
A narcissist is very self-centered, self-absorbed, manipulative, and overall very smug, to name a few of their traits. They may be selfish in some areas of their life, but not in a way that particularly stands out.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder, on the other hand, will use harmful narcissistic strategies all the time to gain false superiority and exploit relationships. They habitually spread lies to make themselves look good and others look bad. They constantly distort facts, make misleading statements, attack people, blame others, and use intimidation to get what they want.
In short, narcissism is a trait that almost everyone is susceptible to. It is only when it gets so extreme that it becomes a diagnosable personality disorder.
Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder types include:
- Grandiose narcissism: They are abrasive, dominating, and overestimate their importance. A person with narcissistic grandiosity will believe that they are exceptional, unique, and superior to everyone else. It's hard for them to understand how they act, so they blame others for their problems, making it harder for them to maintain healthy relationships.
- Vulnerable narcissism: The opposite of grandiose, vulnerable narcissists tend to be reclusive and afflicted by feelings of guilt, worry, and depression. In terms of overall adaptive functioning and comorbidity with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, vulnerable narcissists tend to suffer the most.
- High-functioning narcissism: The hardest to recognize of the types. People in this group have a strong sense of self-importance, but they are also eloquent, energetic, and socially adept. These people are usually good at adapting and use their narcissism as a reason to do well.
What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
As with personality development and other mental health disorders, the exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder is not known. It's likely a combination of environmental factors and genetics.
Bad parenting appears to be a significant factor in developing narcissistic personality disorder in children. Inflated egos and a sense of superiority are expected outcomes when parents are overly authoritarian to the point of expecting perfection.
Excessive adoration, over-criticism, inconsistent care or neglect, trauma, physical and emotional abuse during childhood are all risk factors of narcissistic personality disorder. Having low self-esteem and poor stress management are also potential factors contributing to narcissistic personality disorder.
A family history of NPD is another risk factor. A study showed that the rate of personality disorders in twins found a moderate to high chance that narcissistic personality disorder is passed down through the generations.
Why Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatment Needed?
It can be challenging for a person with NPD to get help because they usually don't think they have a problem. They need to realize that their behavior is hurting them and their relationships before they can start to get better.
Narcissistic personality disorder comes with many risks, both for the health and personal life of the person involved. Comorbidities such as mood and substance use disorders are the most common complications. Other personality disorders are also prevalent. Compared to other personality disorders, a narcissistic personality disorder is associated with a higher risk of suicide.
While people with a narcissistic personality disorder may seem confident and self-assured, they are generally vulnerable and lacking self-esteem. However, they cannot build meaningful connections because of their insatiable need for praise and recognition.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a debilitating condition for both the sufferer and those around them. It can be difficult to maintain strong connections at work and home if an individual refuses to receive treatment.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Self-Treatment Options
If you feel that you or someone you know identifies with the signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, you can choose from different narcissistic personality disorder treatment options. Overcoming narcissistic personality disorder will be challenging, especially if you are doing it on your own. Therefore, it's still best to seek help from a mental health professional.
Regardless, you can still take some small steps as early as right now to better cope with your narcissistic traits.
- Mindfulness: Be aware of what your triggers are. Are there any particular situations, words, or people that provoke negative emotions in you? Know your triggers well to evaluate the reason behind them and limit your exposure to them. Narcissistic people, for example, may notice that when someone they think is lower than them challenges their authority in the workplace, they get angry. It can help them figure out what makes them angry. Breathing meditation, journaling, and exercising are some of the most popular mindfulness techniques.
- Listen more, speak less: It is a common trait of narcissists to be in charge of the conversation. There's a strong desire to return the topic to where you want it to be and perhaps to boost your ego in the process. Learn to pay attention. When someone tells you something, follow up with them to find out more. Instead of using yes/no questions, open-ended questions should be used. And pay close attention to their responses, giving them your complete attention.
- Hold yourself accountable: People with strong narcissistic traits don't want to take responsibility for their bad or incompetent behavior. Stop blaming others for your misfortunes. Blaming keeps you stuck in a victim mindset and prevents you from taking action to improve your condition. Accept that you are the one who makes your life happen.
- Stop taking things personally: One of the reasons people take things personally is their insecurities. Rather than making assumptions that a particular issue is about you, you'd be better off asking questions. You'd be surprised at how rare things really are about you.
Therapy for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Therapy is one of the best treatment options you have. As mentioned earlier, treating NPD is a unique issue. A mental health professional can help you more if you ask for their help. Their knowledge of the most recent studies on the subject will likewise be more current, and they will have an in-depth understanding of what works and what doesn't.
Different therapeutic approaches are available, including the following:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used form of counseling. It is an effective treatment for many mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, and more. This counseling method is a problem-solving strategy that concentrates on the client's current problems.
CBT helps people learn how to identify their faulty beliefs and change their self-destructive behaviors by turning them into something more positive and productive.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
EMDR helps you feel better by changing how your memories are stored in your brain. An EMDR therapist leads you through a series of bilateral (side-to-side) eye movements as you remember traumatic or triggering events in small parts until those memories no longer make you feel bad.
Transference-focused therapy requires two sessions per week. It focuses on how people express their emotions to their therapist. Because people with NPD can get angry when they think they've been treated poorly, their feelings about other people are very important.
Many studies show that online therapy can help people with different mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. It's not a surprise that more people choose online counseling over in-person therapy every year. Online therapy is convenient, more affordable, and easier for people who prefer communicating online.
Narcissism is often used to characterize selfish behavior, but the condition of narcissistic personality disorder is rare. Only a mental health professional can make the diagnosis. Narcissistic traits can harm your life and the quality of your relationships. It's possible to modify these bad habits using a variety of therapeutic approaches.
Narcissistic traits can be reduced with the help of a qualified and loving therapist. DoMental is a great place to begin your path to mental health.